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Recidivism, health and social functioning following release to the community of NSW prisoners with problematic drug use, an evaluation of the Connections Program

Project Member(s): Chang, S., Sherwood, J., Wang, A., Sullivan, E.

Funding or Partner Organisation: National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC Project Grants)

Start year: 2016

Summary: Illicit drug users released from custody have higher rates of morbidity and mortality than the general public with extremely high rates of return to custody. In New South Wales, 44% of 10,917 prisoners reported daily illicit drug use prior to custody (as of March 2014); and are characterised by needing significant health services and generally serving short sentences with high rates of return to custody. Internationally, there is poor evidence available of any approach or models of care that are associated with reductions in recidivism and improved health of released prisoners. The Connections program provides targeted individualised support for prisoners with illicit drug problems in the transition post release to the community at all Adult Correctional Centres across NSW and has been in operation since 2007. It supports prisoners with illicit drug problems with high rates of mental health and substance-use co-morbidities. Connections operates within an assertive Personal Strengths Model of Care and provides a proactive program of assertive release planning and community engagement on release. Following assessment by a clinical support worker, a care plan is implemented prior to release to assist with linkages to health, housing and welfare services with follow up state wide for 1 month post-release. There have been approximately 5,900 episodes of care since Connections started in 2007, a pilot report in 2009 found that prisoners on Connections had improved health outcomes, but was not able to investigate the two year rates of return to custody, health service use and mortality. This study will evaluate the effectiveness of Connections program quantifying objective measures of general health and social functioning and rates of return to custody of participants by risk and other factors; and determine the impact of the Connection program for participants and its generalisability to other populations in the prison.


Gilchrist, L, Jamieson, SK, Zeki, R, Ward, S, Chang, S & Sullivan, E 2022, 'Understanding health and social service accessibility for young people with problematic substance use exiting prison in Australia', Health & Social Care in the Community, vol. 30, no. 6.
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Sullivan, E, Ward, S, Zeki, R, Wayland, S, Sherwood, J, Wang, A, Worner, F, Kendall, S, Brown, J & Chang, S 2019, 'Recidivism, health and social functioning following release to the community of NSW prisoners with problematic drug use: study protocol of the population-based retrospective cohort study on the evaluation of the Connections Program', BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 7, pp. e030546-e030546.
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Kendall, S, Redshaw, S, Ward, S, Wayland, S & Sullivan, E 2018, 'Systematic review of qualitative evaluations of reentry programs addressing problematic drug use and mental health disorders amongst people transitioning from prison to communities', Health & Justice, vol. 6, no. 1.
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Sibbritt, D, Peng, W, Chang, S, Liang, H & Adams, J 2016, 'The use of conventional and complementary health services and self-prescribed treatments amongst young women with constipation: An Australian national cohort study', DIGESTIVE AND LIVER DISEASE, vol. 48, no. 11, pp. 1308-1313.
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FOR Codes: Public Health and Health Services, Substance Abuse, Public health, Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified